FOX40

Yolo County DA implements new policy to crack down on fentanyl-related deaths

YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – The Yolo County District Attorneys office has announced a new policy targeted at tackling the fentanyl epidemic.

The new policy requires that with any plea agreement involving narcotics trafficking, that the prosecutor formally advise defendants that they could face homicide charges if they later provide drugs to a person who dies of a fentanyl overdose.

Twenty-three-year-old Jake Lee died 11 weeks ago in Davis after his dad says he purchased a drug, not knowing it was pure fentanyl.

“Super witty. Funny. Incredibly bright and he cared about people. He was just a really good kid,” said Jake Lee’s father, Rich Lee. “I don’t want drugs being made that are laced with fentanyl. I think it’s for obvious reasons. People are dying. Now my son has. And this needs to stop.” 

The fentanyl epidemic has been ongoing for years but overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids have skyrocketed according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jake Lee (Courtesy: Rich Lee)

As prosecutors across Northern California look at ways to put an end to the epidemic, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig is hoping a new policy will make the difference.

“We are going to be warning drug dealers when they’re convicted that they are exposed to future homicide charges should they sell a product in the future and somebody should take it and die,” Resisig said, “And this is specifically related to fentanyl and the fentanyl overdoses that have been spiking around California.” 

Reisig compares it to DUI offenders who break the law again and kill someone in the process, meaning those offenders will be looking at homicide or manslaughter charges.

“If you’re selling that drug knowing that it may be laced with fentanyl, when somebody dies you should pay the price,” Rich Lee said. 

According to the CDC, nearly 4,000 people died mainly due to fentanyl overdoses last year in California.

“We’re seeing a 2,100% increase in fentanyl overdose in the last five years. You got two people dying every day in San Francisco of fentanyl-related overdose,” Reisig explained. “And here in Yolo County, we’ve seen over a dozen people die of fentanyl-related overdoses in the last year and a half.” 

Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told FOX40 that their crime lab is seeing an epidemic of fentanyl-laced pills.

She said her office has been tracking fentanyl-related deaths and are working on similar plans of attacking the problem, including the policy that Yolo County is implementing.

“A few grains of salt of fentanyl can kill you. And so it takes a limited amount of the drug mixed in with any other drug, to kill an unsuspecting user,” Reisig said.